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Infinite scroll has been around for a while now, however I have not seen infinite scroll being implemented on any successful or well known e-commerce sites.

Does anyone know of any e-commerce sites that use it, and also has anybody seen any tests been done on this topic?

e.g. Conversions increased or decreased when switching from pagination to infinite scroll.

I personally think infinite scroll would lend itself well to e-commerce, I would just like to see some hard numbers relating to it.

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I am not a fan of infinite scrolling. Imagine a site with images of cars, a user scrolls and scrolls until a number of posts are loaded. The user then wants to send a picture of a BMW that he found on the site to his friend. He copies the URL and sends it to the friend & says "check out this BMW!". For the friend, the BMW is nowhere to be seen (without knowing to scroll, and scrolling to load more posts) –  eskimo Jan 23 '13 at 15:04
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Even worse -- most infinite scroll implementations completely break use of the scroll bar. Some users still use that thing :). The behavior of "whenever the scroll bar gets to x percent then load new content" causes erratic behavior of the document if the scroll bar is held past that x percent with the mouse. –  Billy ONeal Jan 23 '13 at 20:46
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How does this argument work related to Mobile eCommerce? Do the same preferences apply? It seems to me that people prefer infinite scrolling on mobile because it's more challenging to click on pagination elements. Thoughts? –  user31887 May 17 '13 at 20:38
    
@eskimo that is a RIA that is not designed with best-practices. The car link in-question should be to an on-page anchor, and the AJAX loader on the page should ensure it loads the targeted anchor. –  New Alexandria May 19 '13 at 3:39
    
@eskimo / NewAlexandria Perhaps the URL should continually update with the anchor throughout the scroll. Though that could be distracting. –  IAmFledge Jan 31 at 17:00
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6 Answers

up vote 59 down vote accepted

Etsy spent quite some time developing and testing infinite scroll in their search listings. They noticed fewer clicks on results and fewer items favourited from the infinite results page, and users stopped using the search interface to find products. They reverted back to traditional pagination. There's a good article about it here: http://danwin.com/2013/01/infinite-scroll-fail-etsy/

Nielsen Norman Group recently published an article (Infinite Scrolling Is Not for Every Website) that argues infinite scrolling has advantages in some contexts but is probably not suitable if users are likely to want to backtrack or find specific information quickly.

For e-commerce sites, finding products by feature might be difficult to accomplish quickly if all of the products are presented linearly on a never-ending page, without sorting or other filtering or navigation techniques to help isolate the intended item. In addition, locating a previously found item on an extremely long page is inefficient, especially if that item is placed many scrolling segments down. It’s much easier for people to remember that the item is on page 3 than it is to gauge where the item is positioned on an extremely long page.

The article also describes how infinite scrolling can lead to the sort of behaviour that Etsy discovered, with fewer clicks and conversions:

With infinitely long pages, people may feel paralyzed by the sheer volume of content or the number of choices and not click anything. People may view but not act. Infinite scrolling may support browsing behavior, but it can cause inaction (and lower conversions), which is the opposite of what most website makers want.

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+1 Fascinating article. The context truly does matter. Infinite scrolling for discovery mode, pagination and fewer items at a time when the user has to make a choice (like in a shopping context). –  Virtuosi Media Jan 23 '13 at 10:09
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Amazing article. It highlights one possible cause of the negative effects would be users have an aversion to change. I wonder if infinite scroll would still have a negative effect on a new website. –  Rich Jan 23 '13 at 10:54
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"fewer clicks" and "fewer favourites" doesn't sound like a valid UX argument for me. –  K.. Jan 23 '13 at 14:34
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@K How so? In this particular case there was a reduction in the number of people 'favouriting' products and clicking on products in listings after introducing a change to the way those listings are presented, which would certainly suggest a change in user behaviour and therefore experience. That new behaviour was considered by Etsy to be negative. –  Matt Obee Jan 23 '13 at 15:40
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Booking.com experimented with it, conversion dropped immensely. Everything they do there is A/B-tested. I wish I could share statistics, but those are documented internally so you'll just have to take this anecdotal evidence for what it is: something a guy on the internet posted.

That said, the reason no large e-commerce websites use it means that it doesn't work, currently. As with all innovation, things won't be effective until users get used to it.

Furthermore, with infinite scrolling come several issues:

  1. It showed (at Booking) that first-choice picks convert the best. Having people scroll down to completely irrelevant (note: their sorting algorithm was equally well-tested) doesn't make any sense: the farther down people got, the less they would convert;
  2. In the case of product listings (sorted by price, alphabetically, etc.) people might want to jump to a certain page directly by use of pagination. Infinite scrolling typically doesn't offer such an option for the user, forcing them to scroll, wait, scroll, wait, ..., until they get the page they wanted;
  3. There really doesn't seem to be a compelling reason (that I know of) to implement infinite scrolling, other than the novelty-factor. People in general understand pagination, if making money is your goal I would not look further into infinite scrolling, and certainly not until the bigger companies start doing it.

In other words, the article that Matt Obee linked to is pretty much spot-on. I'm just confirming separately tested results from a large commercial website, where it had been tested against many millions of users from all over the world.

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Infinite scrolling is generally bad for eCommerce sites because it doesn't allow users to bookmark pages or save where they left off if they leave and come back. Basically, if the user leaves the site, they lose their progress and it's hard for customers to know if they are getting the best product because they don't know for sure whether they've seen all the products or not. Most customers want to know all of their possible product options and make a buying decision from there. Infinite scrolling conceals the user's product options. This UX article talks about it in great detail: Avoid the Pains of Pagination

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Others have raised some valid case studies but I think this is something each site needs to experiment with. It's usefulness is very much dependent on three main factors, in my mind.

  1. Customer's shopping habits (do they like to browse deep, do they shop by search or category)
  2. Product type (is variety an important component or are the top 10 or 20 items really all that matters)
  3. How broad is the assortment (do you have less than 100 items in a category or typical SERP)

Run a test with those factors in mind and see what happens. Even if it fails, it might just be the assortment that's causing your trouble. Hiding it behind pagination may be a band aid.

Another important factor is affording for some kind of save or compare as the user browses beyond adding to cart.

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I thought the most well-stated reason for infinite scrolling was to save bandwidth on quick bounces?

For example, if the user isn't staying around, then dedicate resources to interacting with them.

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When people use ecommerce sites they want to buy stuff. Not only that, but they want to buy stuff easily, and quickly. They are not interested in flashy stuff, as it is distracting them from what they want to do. The more distractions you add (and infinite scrolling is a distraction) the less used your site becomes.

This has been a rule ever since the web began. Mouse trails anybody?

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I would have to disagree that it is merely "flashy stuff". Despite its many drawbacks, it does make it quicker for the user to browse many products. –  Rich Jan 23 '13 at 22:52
    
Can you give me an example of an ecommerce site that benefits from infinite scroll? –  Facebook Answers Jan 24 '13 at 7:53
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Sears tested their way into it a couple years ago. I haven't checked back in a while, but it worked well. –  plainclothes May 19 '13 at 3:10
    
Perhaps you should check. I just did and they definitely have pagination now. You can select from either 25 or 50 items per page. –  Facebook Answers May 19 '13 at 14:30
    
Actually my point was just that there is a functional aspect to infinite scrolling, it's not pure fluff. –  Rich Sep 28 '13 at 22:13
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